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Interview with Impersonator Steve Bridges

Aired October 31, 2006 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, President George W. Bush.

STEVE BRIDGES, IMPERSONATOR: I am a uniter not a divider.

KING: President Bill Clinton.

BRIDGES: I'm more nervous than Dick Cheney's best hunting dog.

KING: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

BRIDGES: You know they call it the gubernatorial race. Well now I'm the goober.



KING: Good evening.

What a special treat tonight, joining us here in this studio the 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush, Mr. President.

BRIDGES: Hey, Larry, good to see you, great to see you.

KING: Welcome aboard.

BRIDGES: Thank you. Thank you, a pleasure to be here. It's -- thanks for having me. It's always good to face the media, set the record straight.

KING: You've had some differences with the media.

BRIDGES: It's true, your darned right I have. You know, the media makes -- makes -- it makes me look like I'm not smart by emphasizing when I mis-announce a word and that's just not fair, you know. And it's a good thing, Larry, that I can turn a phrase because I can. I can turn it upside down, inside out, downside in. I can turn it. But usually when it's all said and done it comes out the way I wanted.

KING: You're really getting into it. Do you feel that the media misrepresents you?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. Listen, listen, I never pretended to be the smartest -- the brightest bulb in the knife drawer but I did attend an Ivory (sic) League school. Just I never let it go to my head. KING: You have faced though a lot of criticism, Mr. President. Let's be frank about it. Your Medicare plan has come under major criticism being too complicated.

BRIDGES: Listen, I know a lot of folks are confused about -- they're confused with the D-section but I can assure them that it's not a whole lot more painful than the old C-section. That's true.

KING: Do you still believe it's working?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. The Medicare plan is working. Listen, this is a substantial increase in Medicare coverage and this increase will cover all of our seniors and senoritas. Let me just tell you something.

KING: Forgive me for laughing.

BRIDGES: Yes, that's all right.

KING: You have a way with words.

BRIDGES: Yes, yes. Let me tell you something, Larry, older citizens face the highest risk of death in this country.

KING: No kidding.

BRIDGES: Seniors die every day. I declare a war on natural causes. We're going after them.

KING: What are the weapons in the war on natural causes?

BRIDGES: Listen, Larry, technology that's our first weapon. I have a -- I have a vision. I have a dream. I have a hope and I see a future of technological advances. What I see are hydrogen-powered vehicles and hydrogen-powered robots, legal domestic robots, domestic worker robots.

We're making a lot of progress in the technological advances. As you know, there are a lot of cars now that run on vegetable oil. And so, I propose we open up Alaska to drill for vegetables. If they're there, we need to get them.

And also to ensure our expertise, our technological expertise, we need to maintain that edge. My administration has increased Pell grants. We need a lot of students out there getting a degree in Pell.

KING: It's a broad agenda, Mr. President. Can we, seriously can we maintain economic growth, promote technology, and still protect the environment?

BRIDGES: I believe we can. I really do. Look, on the environment, Larry, I instituted my healthy forest initiative. This will help stop catastrophic forest fires from decimating our wild lands. This year I will appoint a new bear.

KING: A what? BRIDGES: A new bear, an un-smoky bear, a smoke-free bear to help maintain smoke-free forests.

KING: All right, Mr. President, let's get down to it. What are the accomplishments in the office in your administration that you are most proud of?

BRIDGES: Well, I'll tell you what, I've pushed this Congress to make -- to make a lot of changes. I urged them to abolish the marriage penalty. The marriage penalty is wrong. Being married is penalty enough.

KING: I know you're joking about the first lady. And, speaking of Laura, does our first lady play a big part in your decisions?

BRIDGES: Hang on let me give her a call and ask her.

KING: Speaking of marriage, you recently tried to amend the Constitution to ban gay marriage. Was this a political ploy frankly to rally the base?

BRIDGES: No, no not at all. It was not political. My feelings are well known on the issue of gay marriage. And, let me just say this about gay marriage, Larry. You can't make folks have a gay marriage. Sure, at first there's the wedding cake and the dancing but after that it gets tough, real tough.

KING: But you're against gays marrying aren't you?

BRIDGES: No, I'm all for it. I think a gay man ought to be able to marry any woman he wants. Let me just get back to something serious, to my proudest moment. You asked about my proudest moment. I think it would be maintaining a strong economy while spreading freedom all around the world.

KING: Well the feds raising interest rates once again is that a sign that the administration frankly is worried about the economy?

BRIDGES: No, no. No, listen, listen, Larry, as you know, I inherited a recession from my last administration but I assure you that I am all over this economy, both at home, globally, and abroad. We are. We're on it.

KING: Are you worried about the national debt?

BRIDGES: No. No, don't worry about the debt.

KING: Don't worry about it?

BRIDGES: No, it's my problem and I'm not worried about it.

KING: But we're facing an enormous national debt. Do you have some sort of plan to deal with it?

BRIDGES: I do. I do. I'm asked every day, "Mr. President, what about the debt?" And, I understand these concerns. I'm not worried but I understand the concerns. And my plan is a proposal that I have just put before Congress to sell Canada.

KING: Sell Canada.

BRIDGES: They ain't using half of it.

KING: What about your border crisis with Mexico?

BRIDGES: Larry, I don't think it's a crisis. We have a -- we have a lot of folks sneaking across the border in order to find a better way of life. And upon seeing our gas prices they're sneaking back. It's a win-win.

KING: Good point.


KING: But you welcome immigrants right? You want them to come?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. It is my hope that foreigners just like American citizens can come to America. They find good jobs, good high-paying jobs that will eventually be lost overseas to China.

KING: Why did you decide to use armed National Guardsmen to watch the border with Mexico?

BRIDGES: Because Dick Cheney wasn't available.

KING: Seriously though does the National Guard have the resources to handle the demand?

BRIDGES: Yes, there are plenty of guards people. I'm even putting National Guard troops along the border with Puerto Rico. I'm still not sure if they're a part of our country or not. I know they're -- they're sort of a state. They're not a state. It's weird. They ought to make up their mind. What's their deal?

KING: Of course on the border with Puerto Rico would be in the ocean. But, can we afford securing our borders with troops?

BRIDGES: Oh, yes. Look, you know, look, my first -- my first priority is the American people. And my second first priority is our national security and we are slashing the cost of national security by adopting a new plan. Under my new plan, the entire budget for NSA is now free after 9:00 p.m. and also on the weekends. That's a good deal, pretty darned good. You're shocked I can tell.

KING: Shocked totally.

BRIDGES: Yes. Look, I want to assure the American people, Larry, I want to assure the American people I have n ever eavesdropped on anyone's phone conversations. And, as you know, I've had two teenage daughters. That's saying a lot.

KING: But it's been said that you're analyzing phone records. You may not listen in but you're analyzing phone records to find any unusual patterns. Do you do that? BRIDGES: We did analyze and we did find an unusual pattern. Most Americans voted for Taylor Hicks. He's a good boy, good Alabama boy.

KING: We'll be right back with the President of the United States.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Members of the White House Correspondents Association, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, here I am.

BRIDGES: Here I am at another one of these dang press dinners. Could be home asleep, little Barney curled up at my feet but no. I got to pretend I like being here.




BUSH: I'm absolutely delighted to be here as is Laura.



KING: We're back with the 43rd President of the United States George W. Bush. You have made some changes in personnel recently. Are you planning any more changes?

BRIDGES: Who, me, what? No, I'm not going. I'm staying.

KING: Is Dick Cheney staying?

BRIDGES: Oh, yes, yes Dick is staying, yes, yes I think he is, yes.

KING: I don't think you two are allowed in the same place anymore, is that right?

BRIDGES: Really?

KING: Well that's what I hear.

BRIDGES: Well, yes it's true. I never know where Dick Cheney is, you know. If I'm the decider he's the hider. Seriously, I never know where he is these days. There's days I'm sitting in the Oval Office I just walk out into the hallway and yell (INAUDIBLE).

KING: Now in your cabinet you're standing by Donald Rumsfeld as secretary of defense.

BRIDGES: Yes, absolutely, absolutely. I have absolute faith in our secretary of defense. Look, Rumpy (ph), people don't know he's doing a good job. People don't talk about the progress that we're making in Iraq. I think it's important to remember that Iraq has now had free elections, not expensive ones like here in America. There's a big difference. And we're rebuilding Iraq, Larry, and we will continue to rebuild Iraq. Otherwise, there will be a space between Iran and Jordan.

KING: Never thought of that. Is Osama bin Laden still a big concern?

BRIDGES: Oh, we're going to get him. We're going to get Osama. We know a lot about him. He's a terrible man who thinks that this is just a game and this isn't a game. So, come out, come out wherever you are. That sucker can hide.

KING: You must be very pleased with the job that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is doing.

BRIDGES: I am. Condy is a fabulous secretary of state. She's a wonderful woman, very smart, keeps me informed, reads the newspapers.

KING: Some folks around the world see America as frankly a bit of a bully.

BRIDGES: Well, I dare them to come say it to my face. Look, Larry, I am a uniter not a divider seriously. I can't divide not worth a lick. But with Condy's help, a wonderful secretary of state, I have learned to adapt to different cultures.

Now when I'm in Russia, I walk like a Russian. When I'm in Egypt I'll walk like an Egyptian. I'm sensitive now to different customs. You know what they say when in Rome do as the Romanians do.

KING: So you believe that we're making progress in the area of foreign policy?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. Look, 25 years ago there were 45 democracies. Today there are 122 democracies. Some of them I ain't even heard of. There's a Bulgarian and Sambuca (ph) and Utah and Costa Monica. We got all the icky stands behind us, Larry, the icky stands are here.

KING: You're still though, let's be frank, facing serious threats from North Korea.

BRIDGES: Yes, we are and we're going to deal with it. You know one of the questions I face is why can't we unite North and South Korea? And I say to people, "Be patient." We haven't united North and South Dakota yet but we will. It takes time but we're going to. We're going to. And, tell you something else we will bring Kim Jong Il to justice but the how and why is for the Iraqi people to decide. I feel strongly about that.

KING: Have you seen Al Gore's movie on global warming?

BRIDGES: No, I haven't but I will. I'll take a look at it. Look, global warming is a tough sell in Washington, D.C. Nobody in political office wants to reduce the amount of hot air. In our nation's capital that is our greatest resource.

KING: During the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina you enlisted the help of your father and Bill Clinton.

BRIDGES: Yes, yes. Dad and President Clinton they've done some great work for disaster relief. They spent a lot of time consoling people who have lost their homes. They both know what it's like to lose a home, the very same home.

KING: Does it surprise you they get along so well?

BRIDGES: No, no, no it doesn't. It doesn't surprise me at all. It helps keep Mr. Clinton out of trouble. It's like sending your college kid on spring break with Mr. Rogers. I just think it's a kick in the pants. Mom calls it dad's inappropriate relationship.

KING: So, you've become friends?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. I respect President Clinton. I do. He was the first Democrat to win a campaign since Jimmy Carter. That's not an easy task. Democrats have lost more than the Jamaican bobsled team. But I do, I admire President Clinton. He was the first president not to improve healthcare, the first president not to put an end to lobbyists, first president not to catch Osama bin Laden.

KING: Have you been to his library?

BRIDGES: Yes, I have. I have, yes. I understand they call it the William Jefferson Clinton Library.

KING: Right.

BRIDGES: It sounded better than Bubba's Books.

KING: Are you worried about Bill Clinton helping Hillary Clinton in her campaign?

BRIDGES: No, not. I mean I think we all know that Hillary sort of wears the pants in the family. Bill's got pants. He just doesn't like to wear them. I'll get in trouble for that, just kidding.

KING: You bet.

BRIDGES: Shame on me.

KING: That will be in the papers. Do you talk to President Clinton regularly?

BRIDGES: We do. We do.

KING: Oh, good.

BRIDGES: Yes, yes, we swap e-mails. He's -- what's that? He's He'd love to hear from you.

KING: Arnold Schwarzenegger has been on this show and it's always baffled me what kind of Republican is he? He's married to a Kennedy. Does that sound possible to you? BRIDGES: I think it's great. I think it's great. It gives him perspective. I like Arnold. We both married up. You know why Maria fell in love with him, don't you?


BRIDGES: Arnold was the only boyfriend strong enough to carry Uncle Teddy home.

KING: But having different politics in one household could be dangerous.

BRIDGES: Sure, yes, yes sure it's dangerous. If they ever get divorced, Maria gets half of California, whichever half she wants. Let me tell you something, Larry. Let me say something here. Arnold has done a wonderful job in California. When he took over that state they were $22 billion in debt.

And he did a great job in putting that into words that Californians could understand. He told them, "Dudes, no tango, no dinero dudes." He said it better than I do.

KING: You know Arnold. Did he ever take -- the truth -- did he ever take steroids?

BRIDGES: I don't think so. I don't think so, not enough to play Major League Baseball. Who wants to watch Major League Baseball without steroids? That's not baseball. That's cricket. It's a sissy sport.

KING: Mr. President, are you frankly concerned about your recent poll numbers?

BRIDGES: Look, my aides tell me I'm not very popular in the polls. I told them I'm not very popular with Americans either. Listen, I want to -- if I want to be loved with the polls, I would have run for president in Poland, ridiculous.

KING: Is it true that your brother Jeb might run in 2008?

BRIDGES: I hope so. He could lose a couple pounds. He ought to start running right now. I'm in all sorts of hot water today.

KING: Do you believe that history, that great book of history, will be kind to you?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. I always did well in history. It's math and spelling that kick my butt. Listen, Larry, I will trust the judgment of the American people. I know I've done a wonderful job and when it's all said and done I will leave the White House with my head held high. I'll do it and do it proudly. I'll tell you one thing, though, I ain't leaving the toilet seat down.

KING: George Bush, the 43rd President of the United States. We'll be right back.


BUSH: As you know, I always look forward to these dinners.

BRIDGES: It's just a bunch of media types, Hollywood liberals, Democrats like Joe Biden. How come I can't have dinner with the 36 percent of the people who like me?



KING: As our special presidential edition of LARRY KING LIVE continues, it's now our great pleasure to welcome the 42nd President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton. Welcome back.

BRIDGES: Thank you.

KING: Mr. President, thank you for being on the show with us.

BRIDGES: Well, thank you, Larry for having me. I'll tell you I haven't been on TV in quite a while so I'm more nervous than Dick Cheney's best hunting dog.

KING: You seem to though have done a lot of interviews lately, any reason for this?

BRIDGES: Well, I'll tell you what, I've got a lot of projects in the works and I want to be very clear on this one point. I am hiding from Hillary. I'm kidding you, man. I'm kidding you. She'd have loved to be here, Larry, if nothing else just to say hi and roll her eyes.

KING: I understand you're also busy on the speaking circuit right?

BRIDGES: I am. I am. I've been touring my one man show. Hillary calls it the Wizard of Is (ph).

KING: And she approves of you traveling on the circuit?

BRIDGES: Well, early on I thought about being a motivational speaker but Hillary frowned on my motivations. So now I just speak about my foundation. And then I hang around and I take photos. They're only 200 bucks apiece and they're 300 if you want them provocative.

KING: You seem to have mended your marital relationship. Have you found peace at home?

BRIDGES: Well, that's a good question. I'll say this. Hillary did spend a few months watching the movie "Kill Bill." But we've reestablished trust with a lot of love and a lot of patience.

KING: What's the toughest part about being an ex-president?

BRIDGES: You know the toughest part is losing the job title. That's the toughest part of all. I mean without the title I'm just another Rhodes scholar named Bubba.

KING: How would you compare your president -- your administration with the present one?

BRIDGES: Well, that's a good -- that's another good question. We had a lot of firsts. As many of you know, I was the first president to appoint a woman, Janet Reno, as attorney general. To be honest with you, I was surprised as anyone to find out that she was a woman but I was still the first.

But you know what, Larry, see here's the thing. I am not here to compare. Maybe if I were a vain person I would go on and on about how we balanced the books and we created more jobs while lowering the debt and protecting the environment but that's just not me.

KING: Have you see Al Gore's movie?

BRIDGES: You know what I have and I think it's an important -- it's an important film to see. I think everybody ought to see that. I will say this. Al was a good vice president.

And, if you will look closely at his record during his eight years in office, you'll see that he never shot a single American. He just invented the Internet and e-mail so we could all be spammed to death.

KING: Do you feel Dick Cheney should have been censored in some way?

BRIDGES: Not at all no. I was a little miffed that he shot the only lawyer in America that I don't owe money to. But you know what I understand Dick's dilemma. I hunted Dan Quayle. Boy I'll tell you back in the '90s I wish I'd have shot a few of them lawyers. I really do.

KING: So you don't resent the Republicans for their attacks on you while you were in office?

BRIDGES: No, no I sure don't. I mean maybe just a little bit, OK. Let's be honest here. The truth is my impeachment hearings were a dark, dark time in American history. But let's look at the good that came from it. C-Span had its very first PG-13 rating. They did good.

You know what, I'll tell you, Larry, I have to respect the Republicans because what they want to do is they want to reduce the size of government. Now, I just don't think that indictments are the right way to do it.

KING: So, you have some compassion for George Bush.

BRIDGES: Oh, I do. I really do. You know the job of president it is a ton of pressure and there are no days off. There's days you just want to sit down, relax and Google your own name, Google your own name. That sounds dirty.

KING: It sure does. We'll be back with the 42nd President of the United States William Jefferson Clinton right after this. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to our special presidential edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We're talking with the never dull President Bill Clinton.

Mr. President, do you miss the attention that came with the job of president?

BRIDGES: Oh, I miss it. I do. I -- you know, everything, though -- I have to say this. Everything that I ever said during my eight years in office was always amplified in the media. And a lot of times it would just come back to haunt me.

For instance, I was the one who coined the term new Democrat. I was also the one who coined the term nude Democrat. And remember how I always used to tell people -- I always used to look in that camera and I used to say I feel your pain? It turns out that was heart disease.

KING: Speaking of which, it was surprising how fast you recovered from the surgery.

BRIDGES: Yes. Yes. I'm taking much better care of myself. You know what happened was it gave me a good perspective on life. I was shocked to hear the doctor say to me I had acute angina. I mean, I told him I was flattered, but I was already spoken for, so just back off.

KING: How did the surgery change your perspective?

BRIDGES: You know what it did, Larry, it taught me to appreciate the little things, like aspirin and bacon bits. I totally agree with President Bush's remarks about America's addiction to oil. I too was addicted to oil, also butter and grease and salt and mayonnaise and things like that. I don't know what I miss more, the White House or White Castle.

KING: But the heart surgery, I've got to say, hasn't slowed you down any, has it?

BRIDGES: No, it hasn't. In fact, tonight I want to let folks know that I am introducing my new ex-world leader diet plan. I call for Americans to eat less junk food. I'm calling it Just Say Whoa!

KING: The president's father seems to have become quite a good friend of yours?

BRIDGES: Yes, yes, George Sr., yes. He and I, we're having a great time. We're doing a lot of traveling together. We're helping people out. I tell you what, I feel like a college kid who's on spring break with Mr. Rogers. Oh, we have gotten to know each other really well and do some really good work.

KING: You seem -- it's an unlikely but effective team, isn't it?

BRIDGES: Oh, it is. It is. Yes, he actually calls me his other son which is what he always used to call me, he just shortened it a little. I asked him if his real son, the president, was jealous of our friendship, and he said that George doesn't know the meaning of the word jealous. He was serious. KING: So there's a respect there?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. There's a respect and there's fun. I mean, we have a pretty good time. George Sr. once told me that Barbara, his wife, was like a Stradivarius violin, exquisite and rarely played. I told him Hillary is like a fine Stradivarius violin that's had a headache since 1992. We laughed hard at that. That was good.

KING: Speaking of Mrs. Clinton, does it look like another presidential campaign in the family?

BRIDGES: Well, I'll say this. I've learned not to speak for Hillary. I guess you could say she's flirting with the idea. And I stay out of that game. I don't even flirt with new ideas. I don't make eye contact. I don't say hello. If you're a good looking idea, I say you just keep moving, go on. But no matter what, I support Hillary. I really do.

KING: So you feel she has a good chance of winning?

BRIDGES: I believe that she has an excellent opportunity to do wonderful things for this country. Hillary has wonderful presidential qualities. Heck, she pardoned me before she even became senator.

KING: In the meantime, what do you have coming up?

BRIDGES: Well, you know what, I'm just living a day at a time. I'm working to preserve my legacy. I don't want to be remembered as the man who built Rush Limbaugh's house.

KING: So you're traveling as a speaker, running a foundation. What do you do to relax?

BRIDGES: You know what I do? I spend a lot of time at my presidential library down there in Arkansas. You ought to come by. You should. You ought to stop by.

KING: I was there when it opened.

BRIDGES: That's right. That's right. Fantastic. As you know, we have the only book in a nine-county area. I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Just keep an eye out for me next year on "Dancing With The Stars." It's going to be fun.

KING: We'll be looking forward to that.


KING: Thank you so much for being with us, Mr. President.

BRIDGES: Thank you. A real pleasure. Thank you.

KING: My pleasure.

And when we come back, the governor himself. It's presidential night but what the heck. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California, will be our guest -- I made him president, he can't even run for it. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. What a night of political guests for us. And now, joining us here in our L.A. studios, is the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Governor, thank you. Thank you for being here.

BRIDGES: Thank you for having me. It's fantastic. Aren't they fantastic?

KING: You've been on the show before as a movie star, and now you're here as a politician. How did that happen?

BRIDGES: Well, I'll tell you, you know, there it was perfect. You know, California, they needed somebody to take action and I am an action hero. So it worked out great. You know, they call it the gubernatorial race, well, now I'm the goober.

KING: Well, that's an impressive career change. Was it a tough, big transition?

BRIDGES: You know what, Larry? This is what I found. Politics is just a lot like bodybuilding. It's a bunch of oily people posing. The bottom line, Larry, the Democrats were predators who gave California a raw deal by telling true lies and causing so much collateral damage that I had to become the running man, and then do a total recall. And I won.

KING: The question is a little off topic, but I have to ask it. Did you take steroids when you were a bodybuilder?

BRIDGES: I will never tell a lie. I did take steroids. I did take steroids, but I couldn't -- if I didn't take steroids, you know, I couldn't have been Conan the Barbarian. I would have been the Conan O'Brien.

I took steroids, but I didn't take enough to play Major League Baseball. You know, they're wrong. They shouldn't have called them performing enhancing drugs. You know why? Because if you see my movie, you would know that they didn't enhance my performance at all.

KING: You're not kidding. That's good enough for me. It must feel good to be improving things in California, though.

BRIDGES: You know, I've achieved all of my goals except for two. And that is, one, to appear on the show the "Actor Studio" and to become leader of this country. I want to become leader of America.

KING: You have aspirations to national politics?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. I'm an immigrant and there are laws preventing me from running for president. But I would be honored to accept a nomination for governor of the United States of America.

KING: And you have your sights set on leading the nation?

BRIDGES: Listen, I'll be honest with you, Larry. I just need the Secret Service protection. My daughters, they're going to start dating soon.

KING: Well, I wish you and Maria and the girls all the luck in the world. I don't know anyone who doesn't admire your drive and your persistence.

BRIDGES: Thank you, Larry. This is the greatest nation in the world. And I'm grateful that in America if you have the will, if you have the ambition, anyone can pull themselves up by the jock strap and be a hero in their own movie.

KING: What was it that made you want to go into politics?

BRIDGES: I tell you what made me want to go into politics, Larry, it was the people of California. Just regular people, like Tammy St. Claire, she was single mother suing to get day care in the strip club where she dances. Just regular people like small businessman Mark Wilson and his wife Scott. They were shocked to find out that their wedding tattoos will not covered by Medicare. Or think of Juan Garcia, he has no story, but he just wanted me to give a shoutout to his homies, Big Tico and Little Puppet. It was these salt of the earth people, Larry, they were the ones that made me want to be governor of California.

KING: But to come here from another country and rise to your present position, it's almost unbelievable. How does it make you feel?

BRIDGES: It makes me feel fantastic. It really does. You know, when I came to this country, I was a poor immigrant who could barely speak the language. And now I am a rich immigrant who can barely speak the language. I tell you something, Larry, anything can happen in America as long as you work hard and marry a Kennedy.

KING: Speaking of Maria, how is she handling the political career?

BRIDGES: You know her, Larry, she's absolutely fabulous. She's a wonderful first lady for California. You know, like President Bush recently said about his wife, I say the same thing about Maria, she's mui caliente. She's hot.

KING: I know that you and Maria have differing political stances. Does that affect the marriage?

BRIDGES: Not at all. It's no big deal. I had to make it very clear to her from the very start that I am the center of the left- sided right-handed type of Republican. We're not that much different.

KING: We'll be back with the governor. Don't go away.


KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE.

Well, the challenges in governing a state like California seem formidable. Has the pressure gotten to you?

BRIDGES: No, no, no. You know, in my movies as a hero, I faced insurmountable odds all the time. I'm used to it. You know, the bottom line is that the last governor betrayed the people of California and now it is my turn.

KING: And you've turned a lot of things around. What was the biggest challenge?

BRIDGES: You know, the biggest challenge, I'd have to say was the economy. You know, California's debt was the equivalent of M.C. Hammer. We were in terrible shape.

KING: What did you do?

BRIDGES: Well, I tell you what I did first. I convened an economic recovery council with a lot of experts. Do you remember I had Warren Buffet on there?

KING: Right.

BRIDGES: Well, he left when I kept asking him to sing Margaritaville. So you know what I did? I opened the books on the budget myself and I made history. It was the first time I ever I opened a book. I got to work. I slashed spending everywhere.

KING: That didn't make you popular, did it?

BRIDGES: No, it didn't. The Democrats, you know, they attacked and they harassed me every day. But that's what in-laws do.

KING: You used the veto quite a lot.

BRIDGES: Of course. People knew I would use de Vito. Look, I used him in the movie "Twins" and I continue to use him all the time.

KING: But you use the veto to stop spending and turn the state's economy around.

BRIDGES: Absolutely. I did all that. And I got busy. I got busy promoting the state of California. Sure, Georgia's famous for its peaches. But come to California, we're famous for our peaches, too. We have Pebble Peach, Venice Peach, Zuma (ph) Peach, fantastic peaches.

See there. And I invited the rest of world to come to California. I said, tour the wine country. And made it easy for them because we call it touring the wine country and not drinking and driving.

I told the whole world, come to our state. It's easy. You just go to Mexico and crawl through a hole in a fence. Enjoy our fantastic hiking trails from Tijuana to San Diego.

KING: So you dealt with the immigration issue without federal help.

BRIDGES: Well, you now I would have loved to have more help from the president, you know, but we couldn't wait. I took action right away. I slowed down illegal immigration and I fixed our wine industry. I did it by letting everybody in, but enforcing a two-drink minimum. Pretty smart.

KING: Very creative.

BRIDGES: I like that, yes. You know, the situation, it called for creative thinking, Larry. You know, we have resources. We just need to use them better. California is home to over 20 major movie studios. We're famous around the world for making fantastic movies up in Canada. And now we're bringing the movies home. We're going to get it done.

You know what else I did? I worked with the Native American tribes so that California would receive its fair share of casino revenues. I met with those in charge of Indian casino gaming. People like Chief Vinny -- the Chief Soprano. And Tribal Elder No-Neck Vincenzo (ph). I made him a deal. I told them, hey, look, it's deal or no deal. They bought it.

KING: The casinos give a lot of revenues to the state. Are there other industries that responded?

BRIDGES: You know what, Larry, we live in a great state. We are the most productive workers in the world. You know all these little tags that say "Made in China"? We made those here in California. Pretty good.

KING: But you've had to deal with more than economic recovery, haven't you?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. There were a lot of issues that I had to deal with. You know, the state is being destroyed by high workers' compensation costs, so I introduced my new walk it off policy. When you get hurt at work, walk it off. Don't be big baby.

Our school kids, there was a problem there, too. They were out of shape. To put it another way, our pupils were totally dilated. So our kids, they were getting too fat in their rear ends. That's why I introduced my new policy, No Child's Behind Left Alone. Fantastic.

KING: You must have run into opposition with all of these proposals?

BRIDGES: You know what, Larry, at first I did. And I didn't handle it well. I called the Democrats girly-men and that was wrong. In California we have lots of girly-men and manly men. I had to learn to negotiate.

KING: And how do the people of California accept the changes? BRIDGES: You know what, I wasn't popular. I wasn't very popular at all. So they called me some bad names. But you know, name-calling doesn't bother me. I've got three daughters. I've been a poopy head before.

KING: I know Warren Beatty spoke out pretty harshly against you. Are you still friends with him?

BRIDGES: Absolutely. Of course, you know, we just have different policies and different ideas. You know, I respect Warren Beatty, I respect his movies, like "Reds". But I will say this, that if he wants to run for California governor, heaven can wait. The last thing we need is some Hollywood guy in the governor's mansion.

KING: There you go it, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

This has been quite an hour. I want to thank our earlier guests, President George W. Bush and President Bill Clinton. Don't go away.



BUSH: Ladies and gentlemen, that ruggedly good looking guy right there is Steve Bridges. He's a fine talent. In fact, Steve did all my debates with Senator Kerry.


KING: Well, you've seen George Bush and you've seen Bill Clinton and you've seen Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now meet the man who has played them all.

Steve Bridges, comedian and impressionist, he's known as Mr. President.

How did all this start for you?

BRIDGES: You know, I started doing impersonation when I was a little kid. Three Stooges, I mean every kid impersonated the Three Stooges. Anything I saw on TV, I imitated. I was a pretty quiet kid. I wasn't rambunctious, but that really is where it all began.

KING: How did the president's thing get in?

BRIDGES: We did a videotape, a customized introduction for Barbara Bush and we taped it, sent it to them. And before she spoke, they brought down the screen and, bam, there's me.

KING: Her son or her husband?

BRIDGES: No, it was for her. She was speaking. Barbara Bush was speaking. And she saw that and got a copy of it and apparently showed it to the president, sat him down and said, hey, look who's impersonating you. But we got invited to the White House basically as a result of that -- of that, you know, that little videotape that we made. And I'll never forget we were waiting, you know, to go into the Oval Office and the door pops open. There's the president. And he looks out of the Oval Office -- no makeup. Just as myself.

He looks at me and goes, is this me? And we walked in and we started talking. I was there with my manager Randy and Kevin Haney (ph), the makeup artist, and a friend of our, Jim Howard. We're all sitting around talking to the president.

He was kind of sitting back like that. You know, just sitting back, all relaxed. He goes, I saw that tape you made for mom. So I got to tell you something, you seem a tape of someone who looks like you, acts like you, talks like you, that's weird. We all just busted out.

KING: You have him, of course, down pat. How long does it take to do the whole schtick, the makeup, the whole bit?

BRIDGES: It's really a two and a half hour thing. You sit tight. And Kevin Haney puts it together. And it's prosthetic pieces. My entire face is covered, with all three characters, except for Bill Clinton, the upper lip isn't covered, that's mine. Everything else, with Schwarzenegger and with Bush, everything's totally covered. Yes.

KING: It takes two and half hours?

BRIDGES: About two and a half hours. A little bit more, give or take.

KING: Who does it?

BRIDGES: Kevin Haney. And he's also trained another makeup artist to do the job. They travel with me, depending on who's available. But Kevin is the one who kind of creates...

KING: Is he in the movie business?

BRIDGES: Yes, absolutely. He won an Oscar for "Driving Miss Daisy". He's the one that aged Dan Aykroyd.

KING: The biggest score for you is doing the Correspondents' Dinner?

BRIDGES: It really was. That was huge. That was a worldwide -- I had relative in England calling, Steven...

KING: To get him to go with it, right?

BRIDGES: You know what, I think it was -- I think it was his idea to do that at the Correspondents' Dinner. It was the president's, because when we met him at the White House, he had said, you know, we're going to do something. We're going to do something. So, you know, I was like, that's cool. I didn't want to get my hopes up. You know, but it was really cool. It worked out and it was his idea and...

KING: And you've done a lot on the "Tonight Show", right?

BRIDGES: Right, with Jay Leno.

KING: You were his guy as Bush.

BRIDGES: We were doing that for years. It's a lot of fun.

KING: What happens when he leaves office?

BRIDGES: Do the next person, you know. That's we're -- I'm always think, who's the next? Who's the next big thing? You know I'm watching the news, and kind of looking and...

KING: Are you looking at other candidates?

BRIDGES: Oh, sure. I'm like, can I impersonate that person? Can Kevin make me look like him?

KING: Of course, there is an impossibility, and that's Hillary.

BRIDGES: That's why we're going to be Bill.

KING: You're always going to be Bill if Hillary's president?

BRIDGES: That's it.

I will be the first man or husband or something. I don't know. I'll be something.

KING: And if you want more information, or you want to book him for your event, hey, if he can squeeze you into his schedule, it's www.stevebridges -- one word -- .com for more information regarding Steve and his upcoming appearances.

You are great.

BRIDGES: Thank you so much.

Great being on. Appreciate it, Larry.

KING: My pleasure.

Steve Bridges and Friends.

That's tonight's show.

"AC 360" is next.

Good night.


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